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Some reflections on university press publishing, academic monograp=

There is a sense of deja vu (again!) in some of the current
debates on the liblicense-l and SSP lists. Those in the "British
Commonwealth", who suffered through the currency devaluations of
the mid-1980s and then the Howard Government university budget
cuts of 1996-7, are seeing a repetition of some of the issues
that were prevalent then. The difference now, however, is that we
should be taking into account the opportunities of the digital
agendas and scholarly communication change. The previous debates
revolved around print distribution and the print revenue issues.

In terms of university library budgets, at least in Australia,
the majority of the access to information votes are taken up by
serial and standing order recurrent subscriptions. Thus serial/
book ratios in the 1970s were roughly 50-50 but now are often in
the order of 85-15 in the serial/ book ratio. The bulk of these
serial budgets are taken up by "Big Deals" mainly from the large
multinationals, whose subscription packages, as American
universities have found out in recent years, are not always the
most flexible if you don't want to take their whole subscription
package. I gather there are echoes of this in current discussions
in Canada with Elsevier and the National Research Council?

As the Australian dollar has dived over 30% against the US dollar
in the last two months (don't ask why, since the OECD recently
reported that Australia is one of the few countries best likely
to survive the recession),and since most of our subscriptions
originate in overseas currencies, then the ability to move within
the book and serial votes is initially somewhat restricted. A
situation made worse if there are 8-9% increases in 2009 from
serials subscription charges.

Incidentally, libraries must be one of the few organisations that
pay for goods a year in advance? - this was usually said in the
print era that this was to cover print and other costs in
advance. These may not be as relevant in the digital era? The
opportunities to invest the cash funds, particularly when
interest rates were high,by publishers must have been beneficial
but I cant recall detailed figures from them indicating the
precise equation to lower subs as a response for advance

As a result of the serials dominance, academic monograph
purchases suffered in general, particularly from smaller
publishers, as did the outputs of learned societies. The lack of
purchasing by university libraries of books has contributed in
part to the crisis of the academic monograph, but it is
simplistic,as some Canadia academic publishers apparently stated,
to say that the crisis could be resolved simply by more library
book purchasing. One could also say, that there are/were a number
of publishers who profit by publishing very average scholarship
at very high prices in limited print runs because they know they
can rely on a steady 200-300 copies sale to North American
libraries .

In regards to monograph publishing, Robin Derricourt, the
Publisher of the University of New South Wales Press, has
recently reminded me of the words of the British academic
publisher Derek Brewer who recently died, "this is a book that
the world needs - but it doesn't need many copies". This reflects
in 2009 less books being bought by university libraries because
of the above financial situation and at the other end we see the
Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt situation re new manuscripts. Several
libraries are also reporting continuing low useage figures for
print monographs which adds more pressure. Some Australian
libraries, I understand have suspended monograph purchases as a
temporary budget device given they can't quickly touch the block
serial subs.

In the context of the new monograph models, it is interesting
that OAPEN has gained funding from the European Commission to
"fund the OAPEN project with EUR900,000 from the eContentplus
Programme. http://www.oapen.org/news.asp


Their press release states "OAPEN is a 30-month target project to
develop and implement an Open Access (OA) publication model for
peer reviewed academic books in the Humanities and Social
Sciences (HSS). The project, which is the first of its kind, aims
to achieve a sustainable European approach to improve the
quantity, visibility and usability of high-quality OA content and
foster the creation of new content by developing future-oriented
publishing solutions, including an online library dedicated to
HSS, and new business models.

OAPEN consists of seven scholarly publishers and two Universities
in six European countries (see partner list below) and is
coordinated by Amsterdam University Press. The partners will work
closely with stakeholders, such as authors, research councils,
university libraries, policy makers, and scholarly publishers.
The OAPEN consortium welcomes other publishers in the Humanities
and Social Sciences to join OAPEN's network, make use of OA
publications models and to expand the available OA content.

OAPEN will use the latest solutions in Open Access digital
publishing, whilst maintaining traditional publishing services.
It will provide editorial selection, peer-review, copy-editing
and formatting, along with worldwide marketing and distribution
of print-on-demand titles. Authors will retain their copyright
and benefit by attracting more readers and gaining greater peer


OAPEN should note the models of the ANU E-Press and Sydney
eScholarship in this context. The latest figures from the ANU
E-Press, given by the Manager of ANU E-Press Lorena Kanellopoulos
at its Editorial Board meeting recently, are as follows:

ANU E-Press stats http://epress.anu.edu.au/
PDF and HTML downloads for 2005 - 381,740
PDF and HTML downloads for 2006 - 745,288
PDF and HTML downloads for 2007 -  1,252,735
PDF and HTML downloads for January to October 2008 -  2,244,041

Top 10 books downloaded in 2008 to date

1. El Lago Espanol - 42,030 (25,215 complete book, 16,815
    individual chapters)

2. Ethics and Auditing - 41,921 (20,172 complete book, 21,749
    individual chapters)

3. The Islamic Traditions of Cirebon - 36,735 (17,121 complete
    book, 19,614 individual chapters)

4. The Austronesians - 34,952 (22,047 complete book, 12,905
    individual chapters)

5. Myanmar-the state, community and the environment - 31,098
    (21,934 complete book, 9,164 individual chapters)

6. From Election to Coup in Fiji - 28,974 (14,671 complete book,
    14,303 individual chapters)

7. The Lexicon of Proto Oceanic - 25,710 (13,099 complete book,
    12,611 individual chapters)

8. Nature, Nurture and Chance - 25,062 (15,960 complete book,
    9,102 individual chapters)

9. Whatever Happened to Frank and Fearless? - 24,737 (20,731
    complete book, 4,006 individual chapters)

10. Terra Australis 29 - Islands of Inquiry - 24,062 (7,407
     complete book, 16,655 individual chapters)

It's interesting that while the ANU electronic downloads have
been extremely significant (compare these to the average
monograph sale of 300 copies cited by the British Academy in
2005), there is clearly a need and a place for print on demand
hard copies, and POD sales here have increased over the last four
years for the ANU E-Press. As the costs of devices such as the
Espresso Book Machine come down in future years, and become a key
feature of libraries and/or university bookshops, then this POD
trend will inexorably continue.

Australia is currently trying to establish metrics for its ERA
research evaluation exercise, see
<http://www.arc.gov.au/era/default.htm>. The second cab
off-the-rank with ERA, is the Humanities and Creative Arts and it
will be fascinating to see what metrics emerge, but one expects
that it will not be easy for the Humanities to equate to the
metrics of some Science disciplines (rightly or wrongly) by
Scopus and Thomson Reuters in terms of long term scholarly
communication issues.

It is clear that the book In the humanities is a crucial
indicator, but how do younger academics in particular get
published in a declining market, and one in which some university
publishers are only interested in commercial cross-over titles,
and even when published, how does one evaluate limited sales,
reviews that might take up to three years to appear against
E-Press downloads and impact?

It is rumoured that the Australian publisher ranking list for
books has now been abandoned but this has not been formally
confirmed. However,the recent UK Higher Education references by
Professor Brian Worton will surely cause some concern in this


Concern greets proposal to include books in journal-ranking system
27 November 2008

By Zoe Corbyn

European Reference Index for Humanities may soon assess
monographs' impact. Zoe Corbyn reports

A controversial European ranking system for humanities journals
is to be expanded to include books, Times Higher Education can
now confirm.

The expansion could see the publishers of edited volumes and
monographs ranked alongside journals as part of the European
Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH). The list is the
brainchild of the European Science Foundation (ESF).

Michael Worton, vice-provost at University College London and a
member of the ERIH steering committee, said a group was currently
being put together to begin work on developing a methodology for
a classification system for books "earlyish" in the new year.

"We need to be looking at what kind of classification system -
probably of publishers - is going to be most useful," he said.
"There is not a presupposed methodology in place yet."Professor
Worton declined to make any predictions about how publishers
might be ranked, but said that issues such as the nature of
books' impact would need to be considered.

The goal is to draw up ranked lists for edited volumes and
monographs in the same way that there are now ranked lists of
journals for 15 areas of the humanities.But the extension to the
system is likely to further anger some humanities researchers who
have already raised strong objections to the journal rankings.
Critics of the ERIH say that the listings are poorly conceived
and have already been used to judge the work of individual
researchers in matters such as appointments.

"The idea of having our book outputs judged indirectly through
the commercial success of the publisher is a frightening one,"
said Kersti Borjars, a professor of linguistics at the University
of Manchester and president of the Linguistics Association of
Great Britain.

Robin Osbourne, professor of history at the University of
Cambridge and chairman of the Council of University Classical
Departments, said: "The idea seems patently absurd - and (it is)
very hard to see how it could be done." But Professor Worton said
that the ESF was responding to researchers' requests." It is the
community that has been saying really consistently that they feel
edited volumes and monographs need to be looked at," he said.

He also criticised researchers for "misunderstanding" the journal
rankings, saying that they gave an indication of "dissemination
and impact" of journals rather than the quality of individuals'
articles. Professor Worton added that while some UK researchers
were unhappy with the lists, there was a "great deal of
enthusiasm" for them across Europe. He said that it was
"inappropriate" to use the journal lists to make decisions on
appointments, promotions or research grants, and that academics
needed to stand up to administrators who wished to use them for
these purposes.


In conclusion, we need to adopt a holistic view of the scholarly
communication costs on campus, although this is clearly a
long-term and complex debate. Members of the list might be
interested in the presentation at the OA workshop in Brisbane by
Professor John Houghton which gives some preliminary data from
his upcoming JISC study on scholarly communication costs in the

'Alternative Publishing Models:exploring costs and benefits'
available at: <http://www.oaklaw.qut.edu.au/files/Houghton.ppt>.

When the full study comes out, it will no doubt trigger further
debate on the topic, one which certainly won't go away in the
current financial situation. best Colin

Colin Steele
Emeritus Fellow
Copland Building 24
Room G037, Division of Information
The Australian National University
Canberra  ACT 0200
Email: colin.steele@anu.edu.au

University Librarian, Australian National University (1980-2002)
and Director Scholarly Information Strategies (2002-2003)